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When getting your first horse, you may have stumbled upon a list of equipment, or tack, that you need to raise your horse properly. Bits are one necessary component of tacks, as they work in conjunction with a bridle and reins to control a horse’s mouth. Bits specifically focus on the horse’s mouth, and is one of many tools that allows riders to signal to horses. There are many kinds of bits available, and the following are only a sample of the bits available to Western riders.

Hanging Cheek Snaffle

Although snaffle bits are commonly seen in English horse riding, the hanging cheek snaffle is a common bit in Western riding, as well. This piece provides plenty of stability, but some horses may be uncomfortable with the pressure placed on the center of the tongue.

Tom Thumb

This bit is commonly confused with a snaffle, due to its similar shape, but the tom thumb bit has more leverage than a snaffle due to its use of shanks, rather than rings. In the hands of a gentle rider, this bit can be effective. However, it does have a “nutcracker” effect, which can be very unpleasant to horses if the rider is too heavy-handed.

Chain Bits

Chain bits are exactly what they sound like — bits made of chains. If a horse is uncomfortable with the previous options, it may be worth trying a chain bit to see if that is more comfortable. As the bit is more flexible and there are many pressure points, some horses prefer this style. Just keep in mind that there is a potential for pinching, so if your horse seems very uncomfortable, that may be why.

Correction Bit

Contrary to what many people initially think, correction bits are best used for well-trained horses that are very familiar with their rider. These bits apply much less pressure, so they may be too subtle for inexperienced horses and riders.

What type of bit do you need?

New horse owners often ask this question, but the answer is, truthfully, that there is no answer. Some bits are typically better for new horses versus trained ones, but there are exceptions to all. The best way to identify the right bit is to try a few and see how your horse reacts. A horse that throws its head is likely doing so because it is uncomfortable, or even in pain. On the other hand, a horse that lightly chews its bit is typically comfortable. Pay attention to the signs and you will come to find out which option your horse prefers.